By Jean Cole
When an Athens veterinarian first saw a pit bull terrier seized by an animal-control officer they found her 30 pounds underweight and her body temperature 5 degrees below normal.
“She was almost dead,” Dr. Robert Pitman told The News Courier. “She weighed 31 pounds and should have weighed 60.”
Her diagnosis: extreme starvation, Pitman said. The starvation happened, not in a few days, but over a period of several weeks, he said.
On Jan. 7, the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department had received a call about a neglected dog at a mobile home park on Neely Road, Sheriff Mike Blakely said. A deputy arrived, saw the grave condition of the dog and called an animal-control officer.
After interviewing neighbors and the dog’s owner — 32-year-old Jeremiah Dewayne Smith of Friend Road — an investigator obtained an arrest warrant for Smith. He is charged with first-degree animal cruelty, a Class C felony punishable upon conviction by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000 and possible court-ordered reimbursement for the care of the animal. He remains in the Limestone County Jail unable to be released on bail because his probation on a previous, unrelated, charge has been revoked, the doctor said.
Meanwhile, the dog is recovering at The Limestone Veterinary Clinic owned by Pitman, who the county and the city of Athens pay to provide veterinary care for its lost and unwanted pets.The dog’s caregivers have named her “Hope.”
“She has gained 10 pounds in eight days,” Pitman said.
A sheriff’s dispatcher has adopted the dog.